GENE PHELPS: State's best cross country runners are in Northeast Mississippi

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Northeast Mississippi had the most cross country queens and kings again this season.
Eight teams from the region – five girls, three boys – captured state championships last Saturday at the state cross country meet in Clinton.
Last year, Northeast Mississippi had nine state winners.
Of all the programs, nobody’s had more overall success in the sport than Pontotoc. The Lady Warriors and Warriors won the 4A titles, giving longtime coach Mike Bain his 29th and 30th state championship trophies.
Bain, who is in his 36th year of coaching, started Pontotoc’s cross country program in 1978. As of last week, he plans to be back next season for runs at championships No. 31 and No. 32.
“The time’s coming when I will turn it over, but it’s got to be the right person,” he said.
Bain’s been around long enough to know what moves to make in his lineup to give his team the best chance to win at state.
This year, he placed an improving seventh grader – Elizabeth Lunn – into the state meet lineup. It paid off. Lunn finished 11th overall in 16 minutes, 56 seconds.
“It was the difference in the meet,” Bain said.
Of Bain’s top five girls finishers, one was a senior, two were freshmen, one an eighth grader, and there was Lunn.
Here’s betting Bain remains coach a few more seasons.
Wave streak ended
Tupelo’s boys saw their nine-season win streak come to an end with a second-place finish to Clinton.
The Golden Wave has been so dominating that Clinton was only the third in-state school to beat THS in a meet since 2001. The other two are Pearl and Saltillo.
THS coach Nathan Hall was disappointed with the loss, but not upset with his runners. He praised their effort. He said winning isn’t the reason he entered coaching.
“I don’t coach to win state championships,” he said. “I like to motivate kids and watch them grow on and off the field.”
The Lady Wave, behind an individual win by Katherine Steinman, won the program’s tenth straight state crown.
Other girls state champions were: Saltillo (5A), East Union (2A) and West Union (1A). The boys saw Corinth (3A) and Myrtle (1A) win.
Young guns
East Union won its first girls state title behind top 12 finishes from Katie Rowan, Heather Dillard, Hannah Courtney, Haleigh Snyder and Denira Shauver.
Rowan and Snyder are seventh graders while Courtney and Shauver are eighth graders.
The old-timer, Dillard, is a sophomore.
West Union seventh grader Savannah Shirley finished third in 1A while Myrtle’s Samantha Shettles, an eighth grader, was fourth.
Tupelo eighth grader Christina Daniels ran a blistering 15:39 to finish second to Steinman in 6A.
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593
or gene.phelps@djournal.com.